Chisledon Welts, England
It is a miserable wet windy night snowing large sticky flakes, and I am sitting at our table in the bunk house with lots of warm clothes on. Several of the other fellows are writing letters around me while two or three are having a loud discussion by the fireplace.
This morning about half past one, Jim Stalker and I returned from our five days leave and thereby hangs a tale. But first of all I must explain why I sent a cable for money to night. I know that more will have to be sent then my present assigned pay amounts to but I had to do it. I lost my pass and two railway tickets one from Edinburgh to Glasgow to Edinburgh and the return half of my ticked from Edinburgh. So I had to spend nearly 3 pounds to get back. Fortunately Jim had just enough to see me through and we both landed in London yesterday morning with a few pence between us. We spent most of the day running around trying to borrow a few shillings to get something to eat. As I had borrowed two pounds to go on my leave the loss hit me rather hard and it was necessary to cable. Now if you can manage I want you to lend me ten dollars for an indefinite period of time. That is to say, keep three pounds out of my assigned pay, if it is not already on hand, but please sent the rest of it regularly and I shall send back the other two as soon as possible. All leave for all soldiers in England has been cancelled – they are tearing up railway tracks, shipping them over to France and making everybody get down to hard work over here now – so I shall not be spending much for some time. But it is necessary to go into Swindon occasionally to get a bath and a meal and I have had quite a bit of expense lately for half soling, new razor blades etc – and of course there is always my laundry. I suppose you will all think I am getting to be a hopeless case. How it happened is an absolute mystery to me. I kept them all in a compartment in my belt where I have always carried them and the only way I can imagine that they may have got lost is that on some occasion, when I had to take my belt off and had hung it around my neck after my custom, the flap may have been open and the tickets may have fallen on the floor. I spent all kinds of money wiring to the hotel in Glasgow where I had stayed the previous night and I still have a slight hope of getting them. Better still I am going to write the Passenger Dpt of the [?] Northern and try and get my money refunded. It’s worth a try.
I got a letter from Bill to day. He said that he was pretty homesick, poor fellow. When you haven’t time to write both of us write to him because he must be far lonelier than I am and France is far stranger even than England. It seems as though we may be going before long now as things are getting terribly strenuous in the camp. It is hard work now nearly every day from eight thirty to four or half past. The new ‘get on with the war’ minister is organizing everything in the country for the biggest battle the world has ever seen this coming summer. It will be so terrible if the war goes on, that I think all the belligerents will have to yield something and stop after next summer, whatever the result may be.
Well I got my trip to Scotland after al and though it proved ruinously expensive it was worth almost anything. I had four most delightful days marred only towards the end by the loss of my tickets. Edinburgh is a dream city. I fell in love with it completely. When I arrived in London on Sunday, London seemed dreary and cold and unwholesome after the glorious city in the north. I felt for the first time since leaving Canada that I had found a place where one could have a happy home and congenial friends. The Scotch are infinitely superior to the English. In Scotland you feel at home. The people don’t stare at you as though you were some kind of wild animal. Officers look at you when you salute them and don’t care whether you salute or not. The poor people seem to be prouder and more independent than the English lower classes and though poverty is more apparent in the large cities than in London, the air doesn’t reek with a rotten caste system.
As I want to adhere to my plan of writing frequently so I shall have to give rather a brief account of our trip in order to get the letter finished. We left Swindon half past seven Tuesday night and got the train for Edinburgh from King’s Cross at 10:30. There were five of us in a compartment a young Frances Macdonald, Jim and myself and two scotch soldiers we didn’t get any too much sleep. Frances slept on the floor most of the time and Jim and I managed to get a few winks in now and then by lying part on top of each other. We went up the East coast through Grantham, Dorcester, York, Newcastle, and [?]. At York I could see the two towers of the Minister looming up a distinctly against the moonlight sky. Morning broke dismal and drizzling. Even when we got to Edinburgh at eight o’clock it was dark grey. We came up out of the Waverly the largest station in the world I believe on to Princess St and there I saw the Seill monument and grand old castle high up in the old town on the left. It took me about half a day to get acquainted with Edinburgh and then I felt thoroughly at home. We stayed at a hotel called the Ruthland at the west end of Princess St not very pretentious outside but Oh so comfortable and homelike! It is kept by two very nice ladies – a dear old lady with snow white hair and a younger one – Mrs. Reynolds and Miss Aranstone. Jim and I slept together in a magnificent old fashioned bed with a high back and one of those cover affairs that hang over the pillows – like this I mean [illustration].
After getting washed and shaved we had a fine breakfast with most nourishing porridge served by the most attentive and gentlemanly old waiter named Peter. We got quite friends with him before leaving. Then we went up to the castle. On the way up we were beset with a swarm of grubby little youngsters who in a breathless lightning speed monotone related to us the whole history of Scotland as revealed in the historical monuments of Edinburgh. I never found such infant erudition in my life. The kids only looked about two or three years old and the way they exhorted us to see all the interesting landmarks of the city with copious remarks, historical and exegetical, about the same, fairly took our breath away. We managed to stem the flood with a few pennies and proceeded on our way. Our [?] at the castle was a fat, waddling old fellow with an enormous purple face and a waxed moustache. Some way or other he reminded me of a sea lion. We had some magnificent views from the ramparts although it was a foggy morning w could see the Forth with a number of battle ships at anchor of Leith and in the other direction one span of the Forth bridge, then to the south the blue heights of the Penthoud hills and to the south east the giant, rugged Salisbury cliffs and Arthur’s seat.
Sorry that I’ll have to continue this in another letter. Later Jim and I visited Ayr and Glasgow. I had intended to go over the sole of Bate to occasion Kate but the day was so miserable that I went with Jim to the home of Burns instead. Besides the time was short and I wanted to spend another day in Edinburgh. Young Mae didn’t find Edinburgh swift enough for him so he went back to London on Friday, but Jim and I made pilgrimage to Ayr that day, returning to Glasgow that same night. Next morning or rather just before one in the afternoon I made the shocking discovery but Jim who is a real saint helped me to keep my senses and we spent one last afternoon and evening in Auld [?].We had to come down Saturday night because there were no trains on Sunday. Sunday was a funny day in London – I even tried to pawn my watch – but all this will have to come in the next.
Much love dear folks, Wouldn’t it be great if we would all up to Scotland together sometime?